In our DC home, one of the first spaces that we updated was the patio… and it was friggin’ GLORIOUS. When you live in a city, having your own outdoor oasis feels incredibly luxurious. We built seating and hung outdoor lights, and we threw some fabulous parties there.
Flash forward to our Italian home, and our tiny balcony is T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. Yes… it’s so bad that I needed to capitalize it AND add unnecessary periods for emphasis. It’s dirty. It has a lot of empty planters that were left here, half full of old soil, cigarette butts, and ashes. It has never seen a power washer, and I guarantee it has been decades since it’s been used. BUT it has a lot of potential.
WHY are there 11 planters in this tiny space?! I can’t even keep one plant alive, let alone however many plants it takes to fill 11 planters. I spent an entire toddler nap time one day researching how to care for plants in the Mediterranean climate, and I discovered that I legit know nothing about plant care. And the stucco walls… does the camera properly show that you cannot even brush up against them without turning grey?
We chose our city apartment for its location. We can walk to 10 groceries stores (and counting), 2 parks, a ton of shops (Zara included), several gyms including Mark’s Crossfit box, and numerous activities. We don’t have a great view from our place though so we had to create a plan to make our small outdoor space into an area that our family wants to congregate.
OUR NAPLES, ITALY BALCONY PLAN
- CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN: I came out here the other day with an acid brush and a bucket of water and scrubbed the stucco walls. They still don’t look new, but they do look a lot better than before! Also, minimizing the amount of “stuff” that is on the balcony makes it feel cleaner. I got rid of a few planters, put the two outdoor rugs into storage, and generally tidied up the area.
- PLANTS: Bringing a bit of nature to your city home can make a huge difference. I found the photo below and loved how that tiny city balcony almost feels like a yard. The privacy trellis and built-in planters are stunning, especially combined with the artificial turf and decking. Since we live in Southern Italy, I’d love to plant a citrus tree and a few herbs to use in our kitchen.
*In order to recreate this look, I found IKEA’s RUNNEN fake grass. It clicks together easily and would be about $230 for the amount I need. IKEA also carries fake decking, if I wanted to recreate the mixed decking and grass look above. I also found this faux turf on Amazon that would be about $125. We have a local hardware store called Leroy Merlin that also carries fake grass that is the EXACT size I need, but it requires glue to adhere to the ground and is $165.
3. PRIVACY: We live in a major city so privacy is never truly obtainable, but we can provide the feeling of intimacy and coziness. We have a large iron trellis on each end of the balcony that is perfect for a plant privacy screen. I love the one below that was created by zip-tying faux plants to a screen. If you are a gifted gardener, you could also train a vining plant to do the same (but with less coverage of course).
4. LIGHTING: We already have 2 outdoor lights on our balcony that provide ample light for reading, eating, or frolicking about in the evening. In our last home, we loved our overhead party lights, but they aren’t a feasible option in our current home due to the concrete balcony that is 12 feet above us. We also considered roping similar lights to the front of the balcony, but the location of the outdoor plug (dead middle of the balcony against the building wall) would make plugging them in a bit of a feat. THEN, I found these solar lights and got a stellar idea that I’m hoping will work! Since I just want a bit of ambiance lighting, I thought I could use the solar lights and string them UNDERNEATH the IKEA RUNNEN decking so that the light will shine through the flooring cracks. Hoping that works!
5. SEATING/ DECOR: We already own this inexpensive IKEA patio set, and it’s perfect for our needs. On a recent trip to IKEA, our daughter fell in love this outdoor kid’s chair that was in the “AS IS” section on sale so in an effort to keep the balcony uncluttered, that is all that we are putting on it. Plants, flooring, and lighting all are decorations, but I do plan to DIY an all-weather wall hanging to place between our outdoor lights. Recently, our dryer belt broke so I plan on using it as part of my DIY art. 🙂
I’m excited to get started and to share our finished space with you!!